Rogue One: A Star Wars Story officially hits theaters on Dec. 16; with tickets going on sale on Monday, Nov. 28, prognosticators will start to get a much better view of how successful the film will be, at least for its opening weekend.
The earliest industry projections were much higher than individual pundits expected, with some expecting the film to come in at a $130 million opening weekend. That figure would beat all December releases except for the 2015 opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens by nearly $50 million, and would cash it in as the sixth-best opening of any film this year.
But what kind of opening and box office run does Rogue One need to make to really be considered a success?
Success in Hollywood is driven by multiple factors: critical response, fan response, awards; but in the end, it all comes down to the almighty dollar, especially with tentpole films. To figure out how much Rogue One needs to be successful in that standard, we have to look at both Star Wars films and Disney's other offerings.
In the Star Wars category it's a unique movie, the first of the standalone features that Lucasfilm is banking heavily on to expand and continue the Star Wars franchise. In fact, studio president Kathleen Kennedy said the performance of this movie could drive the studio to pursue only standalones in the future, ending the Skywalker Saga - nothing at this point is anywhere close to official, but nothing is off the table, either.
Before the first tracking came out, it could've been said that an $85 million opening weekend would've marked Rogue One for success. That would still be second all time for December, and would keep it right in line with Marvel's Doctor Strange and Walt Disney Animation Studio's Zootopia (and, it seems, WDAS's Moana as well).
It wouldn't set the world on fire, but it would show that a Star Wars movie outside the core saga worked, and drove interest. Disney had a bit of a marketing problem on their hands until recently, as the general public wasn't quite sure what "A Star Wars Story" meant or how this film fit in with the others, but that might actually help it with the casual filmgoers, who just say "Well, last year's Star Wars was good and a huge deal, might as well check this one out."
The $130m mark may be unrealistic due to the slight branding confusion, however. Anything north of $110 million for opening weekend would be wonderful for Lucasfilm. The Force Awakens had its staggering $248 million opening, but that was built on 30 years of anticipation and other special circumstances. Outside of that, Star Wars: Episode III -Revenge of the Sith had the best opener with $108 million, a fine target for Rogue One.
Then comes the issue of domestic and worldwide gross - the final amount the film brings in at the box office during its run.
Once again, the record-setting $936.7 million that The Force Awakens took in is far outside the expectations for this film, a very different animal, as is the over $2 billion worldwide total.
Looking at Disney as a whole and how they handled previous acquisitions Marvel and Pixar, they're most likely looking at Rogue One as a mid-tier film from one of those studios. When you look at introductory films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you see where Disney as a whole is most likely placing Rogue One, and a $110 million + opening weekend would instantly catapult it far above those. Doctor Strange is already the most successful new franchise in the MCU outside of Iron Man and team flick Guardians of the Galaxy, and really flexes the proverbial strength of the company, and it only did $85m opening, with around $582m gross worldwide so far, in its first three weeks.
Rogue One will also be the eighth major tentpole release from Disney this year, including two Marvel Studios, two WDAS, one Pixar, and two live-action fairy tales. While they've varied wildly thus far, from Alice Through the Looking Glass's $299.4m worldwide take to Captain America: Civil War's $1.15 billion haul, the average is brought up significantly by 3 of those 7 already released hitting 1 billion dollars, with a fourth just under. Their first six tentpoles earned an average of $841.5 million dollars worldwide. Rogue One would be an unmitigated success at that number, and it would sit it among the top tier for Star Wars releases.
That doesn't mean Rogue One needs $841.5 million to be successful for Disney. Really, anything in a domestic gross range of $200 million and worldwide of $600 million would be a hit, and an indication that there's a solid future for Star Wars standalones. Lucasfilm also has the enviable position of their second standalone being a much easier sell, as it will feature Han Solo, an already immensely popular character with sales power all his own (why do you think Darth Vader has factored more and more heavily into Rogue One's promotion?).
So what will Rogue One: A Star Wars Story come away with in the box office? We have only three more weeks to wait to start finding out for sure.
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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters December 16, 2016.